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Demand | Blog Post

Why Hire Dedicated Developers vs. a Dev Shop

Todd Adams

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Deciding whether to hire dedicated developers vs. engaging with a dev shop or development agency can be a tricky choice. The differences between these options largely depends on the specific needs, scope, and goals of your project. Let’s explore these two options and the pros and cons of each.

Dedicated developers key characteristics

Dedicated developers are software engineers hired to work exclusively for you for an extended period of time. They typically come in two flavors:

Full-time Employees

Employees hired full-time as employees of your company. These employees are typically given salary, bonus opportunities, and most critically equity. Ownership in a company is one of the things that aligns goals and encourages commitment and an ownership mentality. Equity can even be granted to full-time employees hired in other countries!

Fixed-term contractors

Fixed-term contractors are employees brought on to work fully for you for a defined period. This can be flexible, stretching from a few months to several years. Contractors provide more flexibility for both the company and the employee to operate for a set amount of time without the

Key characteristics

Dedicated developers typically have several key attributes:

  • Long-Term Commitment: Dedicated developers are hired on a full-time basis and work exclusively for you for an extended duration.
  • Integration with Team: They become part of your internal team, working closely with your company’s employees, understanding your processes, and collaborating directly with your project stakeholders.
  • Ownership: They tend to have a deep understanding of your goals, requirements, and intricacies due to their long-term commitment, which can lead to a sense of ownership.
  • Customization: Dedicated developers can be tailored to your specific project needs, skill requirements, and technology stack.
  • Communication: Communication is generally more direct and seamless because dedicated developers are an integral part of your team.

For product teams, you often hear the phrase “missionary vs. mercenary”, meaning finding people dedicated to your cause vs. just there for a paycheck. Dedicated developers are more missionary, committed to the company and its outcomes.

Dev shop and agency key characteristics

A dev shop or agency is a company or organization that provides software development services to clients. They typically offer a team of developers, designers, project managers, and other specialists to work on various projects. Some key characteristics of dev shops or agencies:

  • Team-Based Approach: Agencies provide a team of professionals with diverse skills to work on different aspects of a project, such as development, design, testing, and project management.
  • Project-Based Engagement: Dev shops or agencies are often engaged on a per-project basis. They work on a specific project for a defined period, and once the project is completed, the engagement may end or continue with another project.
  • Expertise: Agencies typically have experience working on a variety of projects and may bring best practices and industry insights to the table.
  • Scalability: They can quickly adapt to changing project requirements by adjusting the team size or bringing in additional resources as needed.
  • Less Integration: While collaboration is essential, the level of integration with your internal team might not be as deep as with dedicated developers.
  • Communication: Communication might involve an intermediary layer between your company and the agency’s team, which could potentially introduce some communication challenges.

Key differences between dedicated developers and dev shops

The key differences may be obvious, but to summarize:

  1. Commitment: Dedicated developers offer long-term commitment, while dev shops or agencies are usually engaged on a per-project basis.
  2. Integration: Dedicated developers become part of your internal team, while agencies work as an external team.
  3. Ownership: Dedicated developers often develop a strong sense of ownership over the project due to their long-term involvement, hence the “missionary” designation.
  4. Customization: Dedicated developers can be customized to your specific needs, while agencies provide a pre-built team with a range of skills.
  5. Communication: Communication with dedicated developers is usually more direct, while agencies might involve an intermediary layer.
  6. Project Variety: Agencies often handle various projects for different clients, bringing diverse experience, whereas dedicated developers focus solely on your company.

Both approaches have their merits, and the choice between dedicated developers and a dev shop depends on factors such as project scope, timeline, budget, desired level of collaboration, and the specific needs of your business.

Choosing between dedicated developers and a dev shop

To make an informed decision whether to hire dedicated developers or use a dev shop or development agency, consider factors like complexity, skills required, budget, timeline, and the work you’re considering. 

For developing products, where companies are developing new technology products and experiences,  the choice is clear: dedicated developers are the way to go. Especially for startups, dedicated developers give you the best chance to not just build your product, but observe how customers react and then iterate to new versions of the product.

Dedicated developers also have the ability to be hired flexibly, either as full-time employees or as fixed-term contractors. As full-time employees, they’d be committed to your mission and could receive salary, benefits, and equity (even if employed internationally!).

For projects that have a finite end or timeline, a dev shop can be a good choice. Project examples that are a good fit for a dev shop are marketing websites, API integrations, standing up a CMS, etc.

Here at Terminal, we help you hire dedicated developers – either full-time employees or contractors – for your product teams.  Interested in learning more? Talk to us today or start browsing our talent for free!

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